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Scenes from morning skate: Friedman in for Hirose as Canucks look to get back on track vs. Sharks

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
3 months ago
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The Vancouver Canucks are hoping a visit from the San Jose Sharks is the perfect tonic for a team that has dropped back to back hockey games. Of course, the Canucks dismantled the Sharks 10-1 in their first meeting of the season earlier this month. However, both teams are 3-3 in their last six games, so the Canucks can’t afford to take San Jose lightly despite the fact the Sharks own the league’s worst record at 3-13-1 and are the lowest scoring team in the league with just 27 goals in their first 17 outings.

What we saw

Based on line rushes at a full morning skate, it appeared likely the Canucks would roll with the same lineup they used in Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Seattle. However, Rick Tocchet says he will make one switch on defence with Mark Friedman returning to the lineup while Akito Hirose takes a seat. That means Noah Juulsen will remain in uniform for a fourth straight game.
The team will start the game with the same forward lines they started with against Seattle. However, Tocchet showed on Saturday that he was willing to mix things up if he isn’t liking what he’s seeing. And that will likely be the case again tonight if his team gets off to a sluggish start.
The Canucks have owned the Sharks in recent seasons, rattling off 10 straight victories over San Jose. And tonight’s starter, Thatcher Demko, is unbeaten against the team from the Bay Area going 9-0 lifetime with a 2.10 GAA and a .928 save percentage. That included the 10-1 romp on November 2nd. In that game, the Canucks scored on each of their first two shots on goal and grabbed a 2-0 lead by the four minute mark. Andrei Kuzmenko, Sam Lafferty and Anthony Beauvillier all scored later in that game. That is the last time any of those three has found the back of the net.
Nils Höglander is holding the hot hand for the Canucks right now scoring in back to back games. The feisty winger is now fifth among Canucks forwards with five goals and he’s done so in 16 games (twice a healthy scratch) while averaging just 10:32 of ice time.
The Canucks will be wearing their black jerseys again tonight. They are 2-0 with the skate logo on their chest this season (wins against Nashville and Edmonton). A new twist tonight features a matte finish on their black helmets.
The Canucks would be wise to get a jump on the Sharks tonight. San Jose is 0-7 on the road this season and 0-10 when surrendering the game’s first goal. San Jose has been outscored 29-4 as the road team and no Shark has more than two points on the road.
The Sharks are 3-13-1 on the season, but 3-3 in their last six games after a horrendous 0-10-1 start. They are coming off a 5-1 win over St. Louis on Thursday which was easily the team’s largest offensive output of the season.
Fabian Zetterlund and Luke Kunin each have 4 goals to lead the Sharks while Tomas Hertl is the team’s top point producer with 3+8=11 making him San Jose’s only scorer in double-digits. The Sharks are the lowest scoring team in the league by a considerable margin with only 17 goals at five on five in their 17 games. However eight of their goals have come in the team’s last two games.
At the other end of the rink, Mario Ferraro on the ice for a league-high 25 even-strength goals against. And the Sharks have just 1+12=13 from their blueline this season. That stands in stark contrast to the Canucks who have a pair of blueliners — Hughes (28) and Hronek (18) — with more points than that on their own.
The Canucks chased starter Kaapo Kahkonen after six goals in that November 2nd drubbing at SAP Center. Mackenzie Blackwood came on in relief that night and will get the nod in net tonight. Blackwood is 2-8-1 on the season with a 4.02 GAA and a .898 save percentage.
These teams will meet again in San Jose on Saturday night.
Tonight’s referees: Steve Kozari & Garrett Rank

What we heard

Rick Tocchet, who had some pointed comments for Andrei Kuzmenko after Saturday’s loss to Seattle, on what he wants to see from Kuzmenko and his line with Elias Pettersson and Ilya Mikheyev: “Well, I think that line has to push the pace. I don’t like the word slow, but they’re trying to play too methodical. They have parts of their game where you’re like ‘Wow’ but they have to push the pace. You can’t slow the game down. It’s not even the guy with the puck, sometimes it’s the guy without the puck. You can demand the puck by playing fast. If the guy doesn’t give it to you, then go offside. That’s how you can sometimes make the guy give you the puck. I think Petey can do that with those guys a little more. I think Petey sometimes is trying to feed off them and I think sometimes Petey just has to go. They just have to play faster.”
Tocchet on what he wants to see from Mark Friedman getting back in the lineup: “There were a couple of games Frieds was getting in trouble with certain situations where he’s just got to read the game a little more. It’s okay to reset. I think he’s going to be good tonight. He’s had some good practices.”
Conor Garland on having a defined role: “I think that’s probably what’s best about this year just having a role and knowing what your job is on the team. I try to create energy for the team by being in the offensive zone for long periods of time and tire some team’s D out. It’s worked so far, but we have a long way to go.”

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